A JOY IN CANNES – Newspaper

Joyland, a film featuring a traditional Lahori family coming into contact with a transgender woman, has worked through multiple funding sources, development labs, and more. around the world for many years. He could have fallen into countless traps.

Some would have been obvious — exoticisms of all sorts to appease the global gaze — others less so, for example the aesthetics of the camps, or an excessive insistence on “countering stereotypes” in the latest fashion. However, unlike most of the other works in the Cannes box “Un Certain Regard”, for which it won the jury prize, Joyland does not fall into any trap.

By showing a household with two brothers, their families and their elderly father, its main focus is far from conventional: the sweet brother, Haider. Mumtaz, his wife, works as a hairdresser, and is the couple’s breadwinner and central force – until her shy, willing and awkward husband gets a job… as a background dancer for a transgender artist, Biba .

Simultaneously dense and fragmented thanks to the deft use of color and the meticulous and thorough layering of almost every shot (justly served by an unusually narrow 4:3 ratio), the domestic spaces reflect an extended family that is both cohesive and fractured, with this dichotomy revealing itself more and more as the plot complications develop.

Saim Sadiq’s Joyland has brought Pakistan back onto the map of the major festival scene after a long and confusing absence

Formal brilliance is not lacking in Joyland, but in cinema there is something that matters more than any visual and any style, perhaps even more than the action itself: the tone. . This is where Joyland proves truly breathtaking, constantly imbued with a leisurely-paced melancholy mood, effectively keeping the ever-devious demons of melodrama at bay, limiting the comedy to frequent, well-placed low-key laughs and a few sour smiles.

It’s the kind of melancholy that comes from knowing that the chance to break from one’s pre-established roles is so close, here and now, and yet, incredibly out of reach. Even the patriarch of the family, inflexible without much conviction, is not immune to this feeling.

Cinema is at its best when it makes us notice those paradoxically invisible things that are too obvious for us to pay attention to, and Joyland excels at that even more than setting a melancholic tone. In Joyland, homosexuality is not exceptional. Queer spaces (dancing theatre) are constantly connected to domestic spaces through Haider’s subway rides; in this, he and Biba share a tenderness not so far removed from the tenderness of his own family life.

The neon lights in Biba Theater and those in Lahore’s Joyland amusement park may just be different permutations of the same human matter. If gender fluidity plays a role in Joyland, it’s because it’s always already there in the first place: whether we recognize it or not, the porosity between gender roles is often the most ordinary thing in n’ any house.

All it takes is a simple goat slaughter scene, just after the incipit: two quick close-ups, and our perception of Haider as the male of the couple is challenged, without anything particularly abnormal happening. . But while Haider’s hesitant and all-too-common masculinity is squarely in the foreground, the film doesn’t overlook Mumtaz and her own problematic condition as a wife.

Her condition can unfortunately be summed up by the key line of perhaps the entire film, which is that within her own home, she occupies the uncomfortable position of being “transparent, visibly.”

Finally obviously, 42 years after Blood of Hussain by Jamil Dehlavi, Pakistan is once again on the map of major festivals, after a long and confusing absence. After the international recognition gained by Saim Sadiq and his remarkable cast (among others: Ali Junejo, Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan, Sarwat Gilani, Salmaan Peerzada, Sohail Sameer and Sania Saeed), the way is now hopefully open for d other projects in this part. of the world to intelligently and successfully challenge the doxa of so-called “world cinema”.

Posted in Dawn, ICON, June 5, 2022

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